A Louisiana community is in mourning after Clyde Kerr III, a beloved Black Sheriff’s Deputy, took his own life outside of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office where he worked on Monday, according to The Advocate.
Kerr, the son of famed jazz musician Clyde Kerr Jr., was 43 years old and was a father, according to local news outlet KLFY. He served in Afghanistan and Iraq before coming back to Lafayette and working as a police officer in 2015.
Duson Police Chief Kip Judice told The Advocate that Kerr “was a warrior. Clyde was a guy who I would go into any situation with as backup and not have a worry in the world, not have to worry about my back. When I got notified, my response was absolutely impossible. I thought someone spelled the name wrong or something.”
“The Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office is heartbroken to confirm the loss of a member of our LPSO family, who took his own life this morning. My heart goes out to his immediate family and to all of the brothers and sisters he has at the sheriff’s office. We will do everything in our power to support our employees as we all grieve,” said Sheriff Mark Garber.
Before he died, Clyde Kerr III released a 19-minute video about his experience within the military and as a police officer, heavily criticizing how the police currently operate and calling for more mental health services for all officers. He specifically called out how police treat Black people and the spate of police killings that has continued unabated despite the protests last year.
“Y’all don’t really give a damn about us. That is the truth. I’ve served with a full heart in the military, after that got back into law enforcement and you have no idea how hard it is to put a uniform on in this day and age with everything thats going on,” Kerr said in the video.
“My entire life has been in the service of other people…y’all entrust me to safeguard your little ones, your small ones, the thing that’s most precious to you, and I did that well. I passed security clearance in the military…but that has allowed me to see the inner workings of things and this is a demonic system and its not anything I can continue to serve and want to be a part of. This is not right. This is no form of justice. This is a tipping point,” he added.
In his video, he talks at length about the police killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Botham Jean, Trayford Pellerin and others while slamming a system that continues to jail people over marijuana, which is now legal in many states.
“The countless people doing time for that. How do you even make amends for that? You can’t. If this feels right to you as a person then something is wrong with you. This is the furthest thing from right. And they’re getting away with it. When is enough going to be enough for people,” he said of police officers who have killed Black people.
Throughout the video Kerr calls for more civilian oversight of police, more stringent psychological evaluations for officers and more mental health services provided to those on duty. Kerr noted that he knew a number of police officers who should not be on the job because of their mental issues.
“You can’t do wicked stuff and then say ‘OK cool we’re just doing our jobs.’ Who are you doing your job for? That’s not doing your job, that’s a cop out,” he said.
Lafayette City Marshal Reggie Thomas spoke to The Advocate about Kerr’s message and said he identified with it as the first Black person elected to a citywide position in Lafayette.
He noted that in other videos, Kerr spoke about having to explain what happened to Floyd to his son.
“He had to talk to his son about how you have to react with a police officer. Nobody should have to have that conversation,” Thomas told the newspaper.
In the final video posted to his Instagram page, Kerr delivers a short but cryptic message:
“This is it for me. I’m doing my part. Do yours. Try it peaceably. But if not, by any means necessary,” Kerr said.
Thomas also agreed with Kerr’s assessment that more mental health services needed to be provided to those on the force. There is still a stigma around officers who seek out help from professionals but Thomas said things are slowly changing and efforts are being made to provide more help to cops struggling with their mental health.
Kerr spoke at length about how difficult it was to move from bad situation to bad situation in just one shift as a police officer.
“We realized we need to do something because, nationally, a lot of officers are committing suicide. It can be anonymous. The department still pays the bills, but there is no name associated with it,” Thomas said, echoing Kerr’s calls for more frequent mental health check ups.
“Should it be something we do annually? Why not? We qualify on our weapons two times a year. There are officers who’ve been with the police department for 30 years who have never seen a counselor. Maybe we should require counseling once a year for everyone, not just those who have been involved in critical incidents,” Thomas added.
He also agreed with Kerr that police officials had to sit down and talk about how they are going to police communities differently.
“We have to seriously talk about local police reform. Not nationally — let’s talk about Lafayette. Let’s listen to the citizens,” Thomas noted.
While many have questioned Kerr’s mental state before he took his life, in the video Kerr is very clear about why he decided to commit suicide. He saw it as “doing his part” and called it a “protest” citing his refusal to continue to be a “cog” in a system that continues to discriminate against Black people.
“I understand we have a tough job, but we signed up for this. We need help. Because when you deal with the bottom rung of society, that does not give us an excuse to just do whatever you want, and that’s what we’re doing and we’re not being held accountable,” Kerr said.
Kerr’s friends and family were shocked by the news of his passing, with many wishing he had come spoken to them first before taking such drastic action.
A recent study by police mental health organization Blue H.E.L.P. found that in 2019, 228 police officers across the country took their own lives.
“More officers die by their own hand than felonious assault every year, and it’s usually two times as many. There has been an uptick, it seems, in the number of reported law enforcement officer suicides. We don’t know if that’s because there are more suicides or more reporting,” BLUE H.E.L.P. spokesman Doug Wyllie told WSAW.